Student donations help refugees adjust

The Student Service Club hosted the third annual toiletries drive Feb. 27 to raise awareness for Metro’s Alternative Spring Break program.

The drive lasts for one month and benefits refugees from all over the world who have moved to Colorado and are transitioning into American culture.

The club collects a variety of toiletries, from toothbrushes and soap, to facial wash and deodorant. The supplies are donated to the refugees — aided by the African Community Center and their partner, Safari Seconds, a local thrift store.

“A majority of the [refugee] population has not had access to certain toiletries or materials. These donations serve as a great learning experience for them,” Phillip Haberman, club president said.

The club has worked with the community center and Safari Seconds for three years. Together, they developed the toiletries drive. Haberman was on Metro’s Student Leadership Board when the board wanted to be charitable within the outside community.

The board decided to develop the Alternative Spring Break program which allows students to gain field experience through direct interaction, discussions, teaching proper business attitude and reflection, Haberman said.

“If refugees don’t have a job, we supply them with toiletries so that when they do go for a job interview that they are living up to our standards of hygiene,” said Erin Martin, outreach coordinator for the community center.

“What I’ve run into the most is that refugees are confused by the amount and variety of soap we have here,” Martin said. “A lot of time the refugees won’t know what the soap is.”

The five-day event includes activities for students to build a relationship within the community. Students will be able to work with refugees and teach them how to function in our society. The refugees will learn business skills like how to make proper eye contact and shake hands firmly.

Alternative Spring Break lasts from March 18-21. Any enrolled student at Metro can participate in the volunteer opportunity. Some students at the kick-off event were happy to learn more about the Alternative Spring Break.

“[I] Just thought I’d come check it out and see what the opportunities are. I want to volunteer and help people out who are in need and don’t have many options. I want to give up a little more of my time to the less fortunate,” Caleb Olczak, a Metro senior said.

The drive helps fill gaps where government funding falls short. Martin said the government gives $1,100 to each refugee. This money is used to procure living arrangements, food and transportation.

Things like soap, toothbrushes and deodorant are not typically purchased with the limited funding, so the donations given to the community center by the Student Service Club helps refugees stay clean.

A majority of the population of refugees coming into Colorado has not previously had access to facial wash or deodorant. It is easy to forget how ingrained these items are in our everyday lives.

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